An excerpt from The Last
The next day Vladimir was transferred from the hospital’s main wing to the mental health ward. An attendant carried the heavily sedated boy along the same snow-covered cobblestone path where the doctors had taken their walk. Sergei could hardly bear to watch them remove his patient. He stood at his office window, partially shielding his eyes, partially looking straight on in defiance as young Vlad was taken through the front doors of the psychiatric unit. Secretly Sergei feared that Vladimir might not make it out of that building alive.
During the course of Sergei’s residency, the mental health ward had been the least organized, worst funded and most chaotic department in the entire hospital. Patients, some of whom were severely demented and quite dangerous, were allowed to roam the halls free of supervision. Violent incidents in that ward were nearly a hundred times more common than in the main building. Several times when the drugs used to sedate the lunatics were in short supply, the inhabitants had attempted a coup against the hospital staff. Outnumbering their captors thirty to one, the patients had the means to overtake the ward. Yet they could never manage to organize themselves well enough. Inevitably, each fracas would end with a single inmate screaming in frustration over the inability of the others to complete even the simplest of tasks. After all, how difficult is it to behead a nurse? Sergei shook his head. The hospital simply did not have the funds to properly equip or staff the building. He said a silent prayer for Vladimir, then left for the night, hoping to find the boy alive tomorrow.
When Sergei arrived at work the next morning, Vladimir had already been returned to his bed in the main wing. Apparently, the sound of his hiccupping had caused an uproar in the asylum. The inmates, even those who had no history of violence, became enraged when Vladimir would not stop yelping. A chair was thrown through a glass partition. Next a garbage can was set on fire. This was followed by young Vladimir being stuffed headfirst into a second garbage can. Several of the schizophrenics were planning to light Vladimir on fire. Severely outnumbered, the hospital staff were powerless to intervene. Mere moments before he was set ablaze, the boy was saved by a rogue faction of patients, some who believed his hiccupping was a communication from God and others who appreciated the pure musicality of the noise. A full-blown violent conflict erupted. When it was finally over and Vladimir had been rescued, a number of the victors declared him their divine savior while others simply wanted to dance to his beat. In total, there were eleven broken limbs, seven critical injuries, one beheaded nurse and a litany of damages totaling the equivalent of the mental health ward’s annual budget....